Sunday Times heading for seven-day libel trial over lobbying sting against former Tory MP

The Sunday Times is facing a seven-day libel trial after being sued by former Conservative MP Tim Yeo over its undercover lobbying sting.

Yeo is suing over articles published in The Sunday Times on 9 and 23 June 2013.

The reports were prompted by an undercover investigation in which Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert, the newspaper's Insight Team, met Yeo for lunch at Nobu restaurant posing as representatives of a Far East solar energy company.

In a pre-trial judgment dealing with preliminary issues Mr Justice Warby said the articles alleged Yeo was “prepared to and had offered to act in a way that was in breach of the Code of Conduct of the House of Commons, by acting as a paid Parliamentary advocate”.

He said that the 9 June article also contained comment to the effect that Yeo “had behaved scandalously, and shown willing to abuse his position in Parliament to further his own financial and business interests in preference to the public interest”.

The Sunday Times argues that the story was true, that the comment was fair and alternatively that each article represented “responsible journalism on matters of public interest”.

Yeo is also suing over an article on 23 June which stated: "Three lords and a select committee chairman are being investigated by the parliamentary authorities after The Sunday Times revealed that they were selling themselves as parliamentary advocates for paying clients."

The Sunday Times argues that Yeo was not identified in this piece, but Yeo’s lawyers contend that readers of the earlier piece would believe this statement referred to him.

Yeo stood down as an MP at last election after being deselected by his constituency party in Suffolk.

He stood aside temporarily from his role as chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Committee but was cleared of breaking Commons rules on lobbying.

The libel trial is scheduled to take place in October.

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